You decide to have a party for Cinco de Mayo, yet your southern friends want to know if they can view the Kentucky Derby as well? Could be a fun mix of cultural exploration. But how are you going to pull off the the food and drink to satisfy both?

Margaritas and stuffed pork quesadillas versus mint juleps and Benedictine cucumber sandwiches. Of course, we all know each event has an immense more to offer than tacos and bourbon, but today we are seeking one recipe that can tie them together seamlessly.

This Spicy Strawberry and Mint Grilled Cheese Quesadilla Sandwich is a crazy exploration into marrying these two festivities through one recipe. Imagine you are walking around the party while munching on a warm, cheesy quesadilla, and you trip but catch yourself by landing your cheese filled hand into a fellow party goer’s mint julep, which proceeds to knock into a bowl of fresh strawberries. Yup, that’s what this is. Cue the fireworks.

Sure it’s far fetched, but it could happen. More important is the how the warm Grand Marnier-kissed goat cheese envelopes the sweet strawberries and fresh mint. Simple toasted walnuts add a touch of luxury and refinement to the sandwich while the spicy jalapeno jelly lingers on the tongue. I know it sounds odd, but it’s a fun little appetizer. Could even be a light lunch on the right day.

It’s a fancy sandwich that that resembles a quesadilla and has all the makings of lip smacking and finger licking. Breathe easier knowing you have your party bases covered… unless a Sox game is on at the same time!

Spicy Strawberry and Mint Grilled Cheese Quesadilla Sandwich

  • 1 package fresh Strawberries
  • 2 ounces Goat cheese
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier
  • Fresh black pepper
  • Fresh mint
  • Raspberry jalapeno jelly
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • White bread
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Begin by toasting the walnuts then crush them into smaller crumbs. Slice the strawberries and mix the cheese as noted below while the walnuts are toasting.


Whip together the goat cheese, cream cheese, one tablespoon of the Grand Marnier and a sprinkling of fresh black pepper, set aside. Pour the remaining Grand Marnier in a small, shallow bowl (you will be dunking the strawberries in this.)

Assemble the sandwiches: Spread a spoon of the goat cheese mixture on one side of the bread. Tear up one medium sized mint leaf over the goat cheese and then sprinkle with a spoon of chopped walnuts. Dip the sliced strawberries in the Grand Marnier and lay on top of the goat cheese. Spread a spoon of the jalapeno jelly on the remaining bread slice and bring the two halves together. Repeat for each sandwich.

Brush a hot griddle or large fry pan with butter. Place the sandwiches on the griddle and cook until lightly golden brown. Flip over and repeat on the second side. Enjoy while warm.


Fat and Happy Food Blog Tips and Techniques: Let the goat cheese come to room temperature for easier spreading. For a fancier looking sandwich/quesadilla, use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of the white bread.

For more recipes and more photos, go to Monique’s blog:

A couple weeks ago, Monique Costello, the woman behind Fat & Happy, returned from a trip to Peru. She wrote about her experiences as well as riffed on some of the local fare in Fat & Happy: A Visit to Peru and a Peruvian Causa Recipe.

She included several photos. Here are many more. From danger to more details about the drinks and foods and people in the photos, I asked Monique to elaborate.


Butterflies mating on your hat?! That seems like a religious experience.

It really was amazing; I feel it has special meaning too. A friend did a journey for me a few months ago and the butterfly was a powerful symbol for me at the time.

All the mushrooms? The red ones — were the poisonous?

The red ones are the psychedelic ones- he didn’t let me pick any.

Were you ever in danger?

The only real danger was when we over-indulged in pisco drinks and found ourselves stumbling home on the tricky cobblestone. But seriously, we did all take one giant step back from the tarantula after we found out it could jump 1.5 meters.

This-bigWhat was the guide motioning when he looked like was saying, “The trunk is thiiiiiiiiiiiiis big!”? That was the oldest tree in the area. We stood inside one of the trees- you can see the spirits in the photo I took inside the tree. The tree information is fascinating. Fig trees take over and kill other trees. Even baby banana trees will take all the nutrients from the mother tree (which will die) if you don’t transplant it.

Did anything fall on you while you were in the jungle?  Does a lizard count?

Do they have ticks there? Or worse? Lyme Disease? No ticks. Malaria rather than Lyme.

Did you use insect repellent? YES! We brought three different kinds. I made the mistake of going to the farm in shorts and a t-shirt without much bug spray on. I’m guessing that was the day I landed all my bug bites though I never felt them.

Were there any amazing fruits just dangling close by that you could pluck and eat? We did pick up quit a few fruits at the Polyfarm. My favorite was the grapefruit lime. So sweet and delicious.

Speaking of edible leaves, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts—Splendid Table—and they were talking about using radish leaves in a salad. I started thinking of unconventional choices for your salad. For instance, there are some dandelions growing right now on my lawn, and I’m wondering if I should eat them. I’m wondering if you encountered a lot of strange salads there. Oddly, we didn’t get a lot of salad. The water is undrinkable outside of Lima, so we were warned to stay away. But also I didn’t see much in the way of greens, even at the markets.

Are any of the beer drinking photos you took involving the coldest, thirst-quenching beer you’ve had (post jungle hike)?

Oh shoot, no. I’ll check with my friends, but I’m fairly positive we don’t have that photo.


Were those glass jugs of liquid and different ingredients the infused Pisco?


Can you go into detail about one that you had that was amazing?

Yes, I have a photo of that one, but it’s not great.  They infused the pisco with hot chili peppers. Keep in mind I like spice. So we asked our super fabulous waiter to suggest drinks for us.  He suggested the “lesser spicy” one. That had two, spicy and not-so-spicy,  pepper-infused pisco. I pushed for the more spicy one until he gave me a sample. Ay carumba! I hung my head and agreed to the less spicy, which turned out to have more than plenty of KICK. So they designed a drink around that for me, muddled with berries, a hint of simple syrup and garnished with mint. Favorites drink of the weekend. Actually came home and made a spicy simple syrup to use in our pisco sours for the pasta party. Huge hit!


Were any of your other drink photos pisco drinks?

All of them. J I could come up with names and base flavors if I dug in a bit.

Also (an aside) why don’t we have pisco here? Binny’s has it.

It sounds wondrous. The Wikipedia page notes that in its pure form, it tastes of reeds. I want to taste that! I also found this webpage of a restaurant in Hong Kong that is all about Peruvian foods and drinks. I’m very fascinated by this. I wonder if there are any restaurants in Chicago that specialize.

Have you tried Grappa? It’s similar. I drank the pisco straight one night. It’s not for everyone. However, pisco is technically brandy, made from muscat must and only the first press is used.

Another aside: The more I read about grapes in Peru, the more I’m fascinated. I’ve never thought of wine grapes grown in Peru. It’s a lovely thought.

right? Great terrain for it.

What was in the river water in a couple of your pics? It looks like you threw a fruit in there, and some river critters immediately starting eating it. It also reminded me of the oil slick monster in Creepshow 2. Very scary.

I love silly sci-fi shows. Those were piranha!

What was the fried critter with the chile in its mouth??? Was it good? …(sorry…) Did it taste like chicken?

Cuy! Guinea pig. Tasted more gamey and wild. Not everyone was a fan.


I’m mesmerized by the women knitting. From looming the wool (I’m sure I’m saying that wrong) to dying it from plants they grow (!!!!) and other sources of dye, it seems so incredible. Given that the garment industry has been in the spotlight as of late concerning the Bangladeshi factory collapse, seeing these women from llama to sweater (or hat…) seems so romantically lovely.

I loved this visit, especially the using local plants to dye the wool, I found that fascinating and was stunned by the colors they produced. We all bought several items to help support them. Our travel company was helping them. Learn these old trade to support themselves.


Did the llama spit on you?

No, but I think he wanted to


Was that lovely breakfast pic snapped at Jack’s Place? What is that? It looks like a Peruvian take on huevos rancheros.

Yes, exactly. So delicious. Not better than what we get here, but real good.

And were those typical pancakes? Do they use maple syrup there?

Yes and yes.

It looked like there were exotic, large rodents, parrots and monkeys (etc) just outside your hotel window (on that leg of your trip). True?


If so, did you have any encounters?

Yes. We were enjoying a drink one afternoon on some chairs just outside the main ‘lodge’ and playing cards. The raccoon looking thing scurried right under our feet! We freaked a. little. Then it did exactly as raccoons do—Got into the garbage!  Then the rat like rabbit showed up. Then the parrot showed up. It was like our own little jungle zoo


Noises in the night? I saw the one pic of your husband with the parrot. Is that one of them?

Lots of noises. Crickets, monkeys, tree frogs and then a bunch of indistinguishable noises. Somehow I felt safe under our tiny, flimsy, little mosquito netting.


What of the surfers? Did you swim in the ocean?

That water was cold. This wasn’t summer for them, but we did lay on the beach of 15 minutes just to say we did.

And concerning all the ruins you walked amid, did you have any profound thoughts you’d like to share? I’ve never been there, but I find even thinking about those places a haunting enterprise. Their civilizations were so advanced, and yet, they didn’t survive. On your guided tours or while reading the guideposts (signage, as it were), did you get a sense that there was any historical whitewash? For instance, the new George W. Bush Presidential Library seems to be a great example of historical revisionism as well as an attempt to rehabilitate his image.

I think the sense you get, or that I got, was that the Incans were an extremely civilized, organized, healthy, all working towards to greater good, kind of people. … Except for all of the slaughter and offerings (mostly animal). Until the Spanish invaded, they did not have war amongst themselves; crime was unheard of. And they lived off the land and made the land work for them. For instance, Peru has over 4,000 varieties (most unknown to the rest of the world) of potatoes. Small farms with isolated plots have trouble connecting to larger distributions options, creating biodiversity.  Peru also has purple corn. Would love to get my hands on some here. It’s made into a very popular drink or dessert and is said to have incredible healing properties.

Walking among the ruins also gave me such a sense of overwhelming collaboration in what it took to build these cities, even one wall. And a bit of sadness that with our modern technology, we could not accomplish what they did by shear strength and passion.

You went to a chocolate museum. Anything notable?

My exposure to notable chocolate in Peru was pretty limited, but would be open to exploring the chocolate path more. Especially in the raw cocoa bean itself rather than the final “chocolate” product. The smell of the roasting cocoa bean was intoxicating!




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